Wednesday, March 29, 2017


After 4 different injections, my back is feeling pretty good. Now I'm just tired and cranky. I'm not sure if that's from the steroids, or if I'm always tired and just don't notice it because I'm usually always in pain. Pain does give you a nice little endorphin rush, now that it's gone all that's left is a bone-crushing weariness.

I saw a new rheumatologist last week. He poked at me a bit and then removed 9 tubes of my blood, which left me feeling even crappier for about two days. I was rather attached to that blood, apparently. I'm being tested for: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's Syndrome, Hepatitis A, B and C, Lyme Disease, thyroid problems, kidney problems, and Lupus.

I suspect the doctors may just be throwing darts and hoping one sticks to me at this point.

But that's enough about me, let's talk about The Great Red Menace. (AKA:  Giant Baby Giraffe, Shmoo, Stuart The Man Child,  Stupid Baby, and many other less family-friendly nicknames)

Occasionally called "Jack".

Since I feel like utter crap, I'm not riding Jack very much. Instead, I'm focusing on ground work. Jack is actually quite well-behaved under saddle, it's in all other aspects of his training that he fails spectacularly. He has very little understanding of the size of his own body and the concept of "personal space".  He also has zero concept of how to lunge, in spite of multiple people's efforts to teach him. So, we're working on that.

Why are we working on that? That's a question I've gotten a few times from people that I've told about Jack in real life. The answer is two part:

Part The First: I'm tired and I don't feel like saddling and then climbing aboard a 17+ hand nincompoop that requires all my strength to keep from turning into a wet noodle. Not that there's anything wrong with wet noodles, but we're going for dressage here, not Western Pleasure.

Part The Second: I find work on the lunge line, long lines, and in hand to be great for correcting Wet Noodleness without me having to expend as much energy. But, first the horse must respect personal space and lunge like a non-feral creature. So.....

Step One: Get Jack to stop being feral on the lunge line.

And that, my friends, is a work in progress.....

(Heh. Get it? Hehe.)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Finding Fun

My daughter is getting better and more confidant in her riding by leaps and bounds. She's almost 9, and finally physically ready to tackle the finer points of horsemanship. I teach her what I can, but I'm not really good with beginners. She also expressed an interest in jumping, a skill I never learned, so I decided to haul her over to a friend so she could learn to jump.

My friend has an army of school ponies at her Hunter training barn, all of them veterans of teaching squealing little girls the finer arts of patience, stubbornness, and pulling a pony's head up out of the grass. It was an eye opening experience for my daughter. Up to this point in her life, she had only ever ridden my trained dressage horses and her pony that I train for her twice a week. She had never experienced the humiliation of coasting aimlessly around an arena on a been-there-done-that lesson pony who is not interested in your subtle dressage cues. Not gonna lie, I may have laughed at her. But, it was totally in an understanding way.... hey, I've been there!

After a few lessons she got the hang of it, and is starting to learn how to convince a disinterested lesson pony to pay attention. It's a "must-have" experience for anyone who wants to learn to ride and train horses well.

I was talking to my own trainer about it, and sharing a laugh about mutual experiences getting drug off into the weeds by surly lesson ponies, when he made a very good point. "You just have to make sure it's fun. Don't worry about the frame and the position right now, that will come with experience. She has to have fun."

One of the things I struggle with the most in teaching her myself is that I don't really know what 9 year olds are capable of in terms of horsemanship. I look at the pony and think, "Dammit, the reins are too long and he's not on the bit. She's got her hands all over the place and he's moving at half the speed of snails. Gotta fix that." Then I tell her to fix it and it devolves into a shouting match between us and nobody is having fun anymore.

Watching my friend teach her, I realize that much of what I expect from her she just isn't capable of yet. It will come with time and experience. And the only way for her to gain experience is for me to step back and let her have it. So for now, I sit on the mounting block outside the arena and let her meander and figure things out for herself. When she has a question, she asks it. Nobody yells, everybody has fun.

My eyelid only twitches a little when his head is in the air.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Athleticism, Or Something

Jack often reminds me of Stuart from MadTV. Remember Stuart?

I'm dating myself, here.

Stuart was a character who was supposed to be a little boy, and was constantly looking for attention and getting into trouble. His catchphrase was "Look what I can do", then he'd do something completely bizarre. That's Jack to a "T".

"Look what I can do."

What Jack lacks in grace and control, he more than makes up for in sheer enthusiasm.

What do you even call this?

If only his pasture mates wanted to play as much as he does.

"Hey, Guys! Look at me!!!" Guys! Guys! YOU'RE NOT LOOKING!!"

Someday I'm sure we'll be able to channel all this energy into some lovely dressage work.

Straightness: 0
In other news, I do not need new hips. YAY!

I saw an Ortho who looked at my films and said, direct quote, "I wouldn't send my dog to that idiot."  I do have arthritis in my hips, but it's not inappropriate for my age and activity level. This Ortho is familiar with horse people and how we abuse use our bodies, so I trust his judgement. I gotta say, he impressed the hell out of me when he told me that his only goal is to keep me riding for as long as I want. That is not something any other doc has ever said to me, most say "You need to stop riding", others just sort of ignore it. This guy actually wants to enable my addiction!

His diagnosis for my hips, after reading through my (extensive) chart, looking at all my films and examining me, is that I probably have trochanteric bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa on the outside point of the hip.

Treatment, for me, is stretching exercises and corticosteroid injections. If I could take NSAIDS, that would be the better treatment, but I can't. He believes it was caused by a dastardly combination of my use and abuse, my lumbar scoliosis, and having an inflammatory disease (IBD). He also believes that the problem with my sacroiliac joint is that it's "rebelling" against the stress being placed on it by everything else that's screwed up in my lower back.

So, there we have it. It took a team of specialists, enough diagnostic imaging to make me glow in the dark, and one visit to a raging quack, but I think I finally have a pretty good handle on what's going on with my back and how to treat it. 

Saturday, March 4, 2017


So, in my hiatus from blogging I noticed that a few things have changed. I no longer have a reading list on Blogger, which is annoying because now I'm going to have to track everyone's blog down individually. I also no longer have a Blogger app for my iPhone (they switched the app to Android only, because Google). How annoying.  I may have to switch platforms, except I'm super lazy and probably won't do that. How does everyone else keep up with blogs?

In other news, Jack either ran into something or was bitten by one of his "friends" (with Jack, there's no telling) so I guess I have to wait for the swelling to go down before I do anything with him. I mean, I suppose I could still ride him or something, but it's cold and windy today so I'll just let him heal while I screw around on the internet and drink wine do important blog research.

Looks painful, better let that rest.

These posts don't write themselves, after all.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Getting Back To Good

It took six months, but I'm finally in a place where I'm enjoying riding and working with horses again.

I wish I could say there was a blazing epiphany involved, where the heavens opened and trumpets blared as I realized my true calling in life, but it was really just sort of a non-event. I never stopped working with horses after Spider died, because my horses live on my property and either I handle and train them or they turn into a feral menace to society that neither my farrier nor my vet will appreciate, but I definitely lost the "spark" for awhile. I was just going through the motions. Then, one day, I woke up and was actually interested in going out and riding. After awhile I realized I was even looking forward to it. I found myself really engaging with the horses again, enjoying their antics, wanting to spend more time with them, not getting as frustrated with Jack being Jack or my kids' endless requests to ride and groom their horses. I still tear up at least once a week over my Spider, but now it's more about happy memories and less about my loss.

We had a lot of fun together.

Of course, once I actually get interested in riding again, the weird weather and my health problems have conspired to keep me from riding as much as I like. January and February are always bad months for my IBD. I don't know if it's a lack of sunlight, poor diet over the holidays, being more sedentary in the cold weather, or a dastardly combination of all three, but I always get an IBD flare this time of year. So, they play with my meds and try to get things back under control while I stew.

The last time I went to the gastroenterologist, he recommended I see a rheumatologist for my various odd aches, pains and swellings. So, I randomly chose one of the two rheumatologists in my area, and off I went. Turns out my random choice was a poor one.

I sat in the waiting room for two hours before I was seen. First Red Flag. Then, when I get into the exam room, the first thing the guy says is, "You seem awfully young for lower back problems. Do you have some form of IBD?" Seriously? I told them this was why I made the appointment when I made it, I filled out five pages of history that clearly listed that I have a diagnosis of IBD, was referred by a gastroenterologist, and listed four medications that are prescribed for IBD. So, I pointed to my chart that he had casually tossed onto the counter and asked him, "Did you read that?". The smarmy bastard says, "No. I'm talking to you now. I want you to tell me what's going on." Second Red Flag. At one point during the exam, I tell him I've had SI injections and they helped, he responds: "You've never had SI injections. I'm the only doctor in the tri-state area who can do SI joint injections". Third Red Flag. At this point I'm done, but the twit wants to do x-rays and he's got an in-house x-ray. Fine. Take your damn x-rays. He reads the x-rays, and tells me my hips are shot and I'm going to need double hip replacements soon. Naturally, I'm a little skeptical. He takes this as a personal affront. Fourth Red Flag.

I am getting a second, third and fourth opinion. The first thing I did was go see my physiatrist, who examined me, sent me for new x-rays and referred me to an orthopedist who specializes in hips. I also made an appointment with the other rheumatologist in my area. I'd like to believe this guy was just talking shit, but he doesn't do hip replacements, so what's his motivation? I will say that even if he's right, I won't ever go back to that smarmy shitweasel because his attitude sucked.

In the meantime, I'll keep on keeping on. I feel motivated again, and I'm excited to be getting back into the swing of things. No sketchy diagnosis is going to keep me down.


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